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  • Published: 7 November 2019
  • ISBN: 9780241244517
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 256

A Radical Romance

A Memoir of Love, Grief and Consolation

The extraordinary story of an unconventional marriage. A mesmerizing meditation on love and loss

Alison Light met the radical social historian, Raphael Samuel, in London in 1986. Twenty years her senior, Raphael was a charismatic socialist from a very different background to Alison's working-class family. Within a year they were married. Within ten, Raphael would be dead.

In this chronicle of a passionate marriage, Alison Light peels back the layers of their time together, its intimacies and its estrangements. She tells of moving into Raphael's cluttered 18th-century house in Spitalfields and into his equally full, unconventional life; of the whirlwind of change outside their door which brutally transformed London's old East End districts; of being widowed at 41, and finding inspiration in her friendship with Raphael's mother. A Radical Romance is a luminous and deeply intelligent memoir of love and grief.

  • Published: 7 November 2019
  • ISBN: 9780241244517
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 256

About the author

Alison Light

Alison Light is the author of Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars and edited Virginia Woolf's Flush for Penguin Classics. She has worked at the BBC and lectured at London University. She is currently a part-time Professor at the Raphael Samuel History Centre in the University of East London and also teaches in the School of English at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She is a contributor to the London Review of Books.

Also by Alison Light

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Praise for A Radical Romance

Part detective story, part Dickensian saga, part labour history. A thrilling and unnerving read

Observer, on Common People

Mesmeric and deeply moving

Daily Telegraph, on Common People

Remarkable, haunting, full of wisdom

The Times, on Common People

The most powerful family history I have ever read

Penelope Lively, New York Times, on Common People

A memoir of cauterising honesty. This is a book that deserves to be widely read


Beautifully crafted...It casts a light on the lightness of love and the profound depression of loss. A truly gifted writer

Hugh MacDonald, The Herald

Extremely interesting, moving, brilliantly written, as one would expect from Alison Light

Claire Tomalin

She writes with precision and tenderness about loss. A Radical Romance is an admirable tribute to a man, a period of rapid change in London, and an unusual marriage


There are of course memoirs that do astonish and exceed our expectations of mere self-accounting: in recent years, Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk; Patti Smith's various autobiographical writings; Lorna Sage's Bad Blood; and Gillian Rose's Love's Work. Alison Light's A Radical Romance now joins this select bunch of books about the self that are not simply self-regarding but truly self-exploratory


An inspiring account of the deep love between Alison Light and her late husband Raphael Samuel


Compulsively readable. Light is a shrewd narrator . . . she reflects with careful psychological and philosophical insight on the reality of loneliness and profound loss following ten years of marriage. Light is also a poet and it shows in certain suppositions or propositions, those observations she posits in high-wire mental leaps.


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